Handing Over The Keys: Intergenerational Legacies of Carceral Policy in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand

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Mussell, Linda
Canada , New Zealand , Australia , Intergenerational , Imprisonment , Indigenous , Critical Policy Analysis , Intersectionality , Carceral policy , Colonialism
The impacts of criminalisation and imprisonment are felt throughout generations. Indigenous communities experience confinement on a hyper scale in countries that continue to grapple with colonial legacies, including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Policy changes have not been mitigating this reality and in many cases exacerbate experiences of harm. Different forms of confinement including imprisonment in prisons have been experienced intergenerationally (within and across generations) by some families and communities. With a goal of transformative change, this dissertation asks: how should Canada, Australia, and New Zealand reconfigure policy approaches to address hyper imprisonment and intergenerational imprisonment in partnership with Indigenous communities? To answer the research question, this dissertation uses Intersectionality-Based Policy Analysis (IBPA), a twelve-question framework that was developed by Olena Hankivsky et al. (2012) to aid policy analysts and researchers in using an intersectional lens to examine policy issues. My application of IBPA to this issue draws on literature and policy material and is grounded in 106 qualitative interviews with 124 Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in policy, frontline services, academia, and with those who have experienced imprisonment personally or as a family member of a prisoner. Participants report significant impacts of imprisonment on families and communities, which greatly impact Indigenous people over generations. Participants identified a diverse range of changes needed to address intergenerational imprisonment of Indigenous people. The policy priorities and societal objectives identified in the interviews guide my analysis of paths forward. I recommend “placing the keys” in community hands and adopting policy-making approaches that focus on the long-term effects of decisions made today. Placing the keys in community hands means acknowledging, resourcing, and supporting local initiatives to interrupt intergenerational imprisonment. It also means breaking down structures that criminalise people, and building up structures that keep people well and whole. An intergenerational, ripple-effect approach focuses on centring the long-term impacts of policy choices on individuals, families, and communities now, and mitigating harmful impacts on future generations to come.
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